Tag Archives: Concordia Sinks

Canadian authorities reject Barbados investigation of Concordia sinking

“But don’t expect the Barbadians to find fault. Three years ago, Barbados Maritime Ship Registry (BMSR) issued new guidelines for investigators of marine accidents. As the BMSR announced, the guidelines were introduced “to ensure that general marine investigations conducted on behalf of a flag state are focused on understanding the cause of an incident rather than simply apportioning blame. BMSR Principal Registrar Chris Sawyer believes that the culture of blame has become too prevalent in marine casualty investigations.

BMSR championed the priority of “learning from accidents.” While that is a fine goal, we tend to learn plenty when we figure out who if anyone is responsible for serious incidents like the Concordia’s loss. Too often in modern tragedies involving sailing ships, blame has been fobbed off on an act of God, with formal inquiries absolving ships, crews and owners of any responsibility, even when there is ample evidence of poor design, poor seamanship and other deficiencies.”

… from the National Post newspaper article The problem with flags of convenience

…the Transportation Safety Board of Canada decided to conduct a parallel investigation into this accident independently of the Barbadian investigation. The TSB made the decision to investigate because the scope and methodology used to uncover causes and contributing factors will likely be different than that of the Barbados authority. Meanwhile, in accordance with the provisions of international conventions, the TSB remains committed to providing assistance to the Barbados authority as it proceeds with its investigation.

… from a media release by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada

The Canadians shouldn’t be so smug & self-righteous

Let’s get one thing straight: the Canadians have a right to investigate whatever they please. After all, the Concordia was based in Canada, owned by a Canadian school and the majority of people on board were Canadians. The Canadians can make any inquiries they wish.

But Barbados has a duty in law to investigate the sinking of a Barbados-flagged vessel and our country shall investigate professionally according to our standards.

The Canadian authorities were happy enough to allow a Bajan “flag of convenience” on a vessel based in their country, so they might want to be a little careful criticizing Barbados now.

Even Canada’s former Prime Minister Paul Martin has his commercial cargo ships headquarters in Barbados!

As to standards for the sailing vessel Concordia, she was built for the Canadians in Poland, first registered in the Bahamas and then in Barbados. The Canadian authorities inspected her last year to allow the vessel to participate in a tall ship rally in Canada.

Online conversations we’ve read at various tallship sailing forums describe the confusion, lapses and conflicts over stability standards for sailing school ships. From what I’ve seen Canada doesn’t even have any construction or stability standards for tall ships so the Canadian authorities should drop their self-righteousness and disdain for Barbados that is inherent in their press release.

Further Reading

BFP Feb 20, 2010: Barbados will lead investigation into sinking of sailing vessel Concordia

BFP Feb 21, 2010: Barbados Maritime Ship Registry to investigate rescue delay of Concordia Survivors

It also turns out that Wojtek (Voytec) Wacowski, a crew member of the Tall Ship Amistad that visited Barbados in 2008, previously served as Chief Mate on the Concordia…

BFP April 14, 2008: Amistad Official Website Features Barbados Free Press Article

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Barbados will lead investigation into sinking of sailing vessel Concordia

UPDATE on Concordia sinking:

– Captain says “a miracle” that everyone survived.

– Micro-burst: Ship went from upright to sinking in 15 or 20 seconds before Mayday could be sent. 30 hours in lifeboats

“The ship had gone from sailing upright to being on her side in the water in about 15 or 20 seconds,” William Curry said. “I knew, of course, that the blow to the ship was fatal and that she was not going to right.”

…The gust that knocked the ship on its side came so suddenly there was no time to radio for help before all communications equipment was submerged and ruined. So hope rested on a distress beacon that launched automatically when the vessel capsized.”

… from the AP article Shipwrecked students feared remote death at sea

BFP’s original story below with added video at end…

All rescued after school vessel capsized & sank off Brazil on Thursday

Barbados will be responsible for carrying out an investigation into the rough-weather sinking of the sailing vessel Concordia because the ship was registered in our country. According to Transport Canada spokesman Steve Bone, these are rules even though the ship was based in Lunenburg, Canada and was owned by a Canadian school “Class Afloat”.

A total of 64 crew and students took to the lifeboats and were rescued about 500kms off the coast of Brazil. A Brazilian Navy report says the vessel turned upside down in strong winds and that the survivors were picked up after spending almost 24 hours adrift in their lifeboats.

I can’t imagine what it would take to perform a proper investigation into the sinking, but presumably our officials would have to interview all crew and many of the students. The vessel was built eighteen years ago in Poland and there have probably been changes since then. Perhaps videos or photos from past cruises would be helpful.

The news media says that the vessel had a good reputation for being seaworthy and was seriously inspected last year by Canadian authorities as a requirement to allow the ship to travel between Canadian ports as part of a Tall Ship festival.

In 1996 an explosion on board caused the death of a student en route to Australia. There is no indication in the media as to whether Barbados officials investigated that event.

I presume that Barbados will be responsible for the entire cost of the current investigation as it just goes with the job if our country is in the business of offering itself as a flag of convenience to offshore vessel owners.

Thank the Lord there were no deaths because then we’d really have to pull out all the stops for an investigation and in a worst-case disaster that could be expensive.

Now there’s a question: How much does Barbados receive every year for allowing vessels to use our flag? How many vessels and how much money per vessel? What are the expenses to run such a registration system? And what about vessels that default on payment? What does Barbados do then?

It seems to me that the answers to those questions would make an interesting story.

Thanks to an old friend for sending us this video of the ship and its mission…

Further Reading

Chronicle Herald Nova Scotia: Canadian agency won’t play big role in probe

Vancouver Sun: Canadian ship sinks off Brazil, all aboard rescued

The Globe and Mail: First rescued Canadians dock in Rio

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Filed under Barbados, Canada, Disaster